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UNRWA appeals for $1.6bn for health, education and other basic services

Employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) go on a general strike in Gaza City, Gaza on January 23, 2023. [Mustafa Hassona - Anadolu Agency]
Employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) go on a general strike in Gaza City, Gaza on January 23, 2023. [Mustafa Hassona - Anadolu Agency]

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) appealed to the international community on Tuesday for $1.6 billion for its programmes and operations this year.

"The agency needs $848 million for core services, including health, education, relief and social services, and protection," explained Commissioner General Phillipe Lazzarini, "and another $781.6m for emergency operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon."

Across all areas of operations, he added, UNRWA continues to play an indispensable role in the lives of millions of Palestine refugees. "UNRWA is working to maintain the delivery of basic services in an incredibly difficult financial and political context. Palestine refugees – one of the most underprivileged communities in the region — face unprecedented challenges and increasingly rely on UNRWA for basic services and in some cases their sheer survival."

Lazzarini pointed out that Palestine refugees face "compounding challenges" and "most" now live below the official poverty line, with many dependent on humanitarian assistance, including cash and food, from UNRWA.

"I have just come back from Syria where I witnessed firsthand indescribable suffering and despair. The situation of Palestine refugees there is sadly mirrored in other places like Lebanon and Gaza where they are hitting rock bottom," he said. "Many told me that all they asked for was a life of dignity, that's not much to ask for."

UNRWA runs a full education system with over 700 schools providing education to more than half a million Palestinian children in the region. Its workforce of nearly 30,000 — mostly Palestine refugees — provides health, sanitation, education and social services including food and cash assistance.

"We cannot and should not always be scrambling to bring in funds to cover our contribution to human rights and stability," concluded Lazzarini. "Without regular source funding we will simply not be able to deliver and with that the lives of Palestine refugees will hang by a thread and millions of people in the region and beyond will be impacted."

READ: UNRWA employees in Gaza to start partial strike

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